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The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

‘Harvey’ presents audience with tale of kindness, imagination

The Channels Art Pages | STAFF REVIEW
Courtesy of Pam Lasker.

City College’s latest theater production “Harvey”, directed by R. Michael Gros, is an imaginative take on what it means to be kind in a world that often frightens people into forging false and unoriginal paths for themselves.

“Harvey” follows 47-year-old Elwood P. Dowd, who is a best friend to a 6-foot tall white rabbit named Harvey.

After Elwood’s sister Veta Simmons and her daughter Myrtle May decide they have had enough of Elwood’s imaginative antics, Veta decides to have him committed to Chumley’s Rest, a mental institution.

Veta worries about how society will perceive her family because of her brother’s imaginary rabbit friend.

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Due to the frantic nature of Veta’s description of Elwood and Harvey, Dr. Sanderson and Nurse Ruth Kelly deduce that it is not Elwood, but Veta, with the psychological challenges. For a short few hours, she was sent to the depths of the sanitarium instead of her brother.

Taking place over the course of one night, “Harvey” is a back and forth search for answers as to why Elwood sees this white rabbit and why his family has such difficulty accepting it.

We never really get the answers, but finding answers isn’t always the point. The play finds meaning in the conflict of the characters.

“If your uncle was so lonesome and he had to bring something home, why couldn’t he bring home something human?” asked a frustrated Veta to her daughter in Act I.

For much of the play, Harvey is the “elephant in the room,” and Elwood’s friends, family, and doctors at the sanitarium believe that the rabbit’s existence is somehow hurting Elwood. It isn’t until the end of the play that the audience and characters on stage realize Elwood isn’t being held back by Harvey, but his friend actually helps amplify the kindness that Elwood shows everyone he meets.

The play, originally written by Mary Chase in 1944, does not try to fix the problems created by the peculiarities of one’s mind but rather teaches us that those same peculiarities can magnify the best aspects of who we are.

City College’s iteration of this play gets a lot right. For starters, Chumley’s Rest is depicted not as the creepy mental institution we often see on TV, but as a humble doctors office. The set’s walls are painted blue, with glass windows throughout. The chairs have cushions, similar to what you would see in a breakfast nook.

Throughout the show, the set rotates between the reception room and the library in Elwood’s home, the play’s two main settings.

Each actor’s representation of their characters is spot on. Raymond Wallenthin, a City College graduate, was perfect for the role of Elwood.

The lighting is bright, the acting is strong and the direction of Michael Gros make this show a must-see.

With the world being in the state it is in now, it takes a really good story to divert our attention from what is going on outside our window “Harvey” is that story.

It’s a tale of kindness, genuine kindness, lead by a character who would be the greatest friend you could ever have. Elwood is the kind of character you want to go get a drink with and talk about the good ole’ days.

The show presents us with something that many perceive as an issue, and leaves us with an overwhelming feeling that, if we look hard enough, we too can find kindness in the world.

“Harvey” is playing until March 16 at the Garvin Theatre.

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